Clovis hitch

About Trump’s candidate to be “chief scientist” at the Department of Agriculture – Pro Publica last May:

The USDA’s research section studies everything from climate change to nutrition. Under the 2008 Farm Bill, its leader is supposed to serve as the agency’s “chief scientist” and be chosen “from among distinguished scientists with specialized or significant experience in agricultural research, education, and economics.”

Does that describe Sam Clovis? No.

Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.

Plus public administration and business are not sciences. Also…what’s Morningside College?

Morningside College is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church located in Sioux CityIowa.

Ok, it’s a small bible college in Iowa, so not obviously the sort of credential that puts one in a top government job.

Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television.

So in other words his nomination is insultingly random.

Catherine Woteki, who served as undersecretary for research, education and economics in the Obama Administration, compared the move to appointing someone without a medical background to lead the National Institutes of Health. The USDA post includes overseeing scientific integrity within the agency.

“This position is the chief scientist of the department of agriculture. It should be a person who evaluates the scientific body of evidence and moves appropriately from there,” she said in an interview.

Which should be someone qualified to do that. It’s insulting to the citizenry to nominate someone who is in no way qualified to that sort of job.

Clovis has a B.S. in political science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an MBA from Golden Gate University and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Alabama. The University of Alabama canceled the program the year after Clovis graduated, but an old course catalogue provided by the university does not indicate the program required any science courses.

Clovis’ published works do not appear to include any scientific papers. His 2006 dissertation concerned federalism and homeland security preparation, and a search for academic research published by Clovis turned up a handful of journal articles, all related to national security and terrorism.

As undersecretary for research, education and economics, Woteki directed additional resources to helping local farmers and agricultural workers address the impacts of severe drought, flooding and unpredictable weather patterns. She chaired the “Global Research Alliance to Reduce Agricultural Greenhouse Gasses,” which brings together chief agricultural scientists from across the globe. Under her leadership, the USDA also created “Climate Hubs” across the country to help localized solutions for adapting to climate change.

Clovis has repeatedly expressed skepticism over climate science, and has called efforts to address climate change “simply a mechanism for transferring wealth from one group of people to another.” He has indicated the Trump administration will take a starkly different approach at the USDA. Representing the campaign at the Farm Foundation Forum in October, Clovis told E&E News that Trump’s agriculture policy would focus on boosting trade and lessening regulation and not the impact of climate change.

Trump clearly hates knowledge and expertise of any kind. He’s a bluffer, and he wants to fill his entire administration with bluffers. That’s a funny way to make America great again.

The USDA’s undersecretary for research, education and economics has historically consulted on a wide range of scientific issues. Woteki, for example, said she was asked for input on the Zika and Ebola outbreaks because of the USDA’s relevant research and was frequently called upon to offer guidance on homeland security issues related to food safety.

“Access to safe food and clean air and water is absolutely fundamental to personal security,” she said, adding that a scientific understanding of food safety is critical to success in the job. “Food systems are widely recognized by the national security community as being part of critical infrastructure.”

Clovis’ academic background includes years of study on homeland security, but focused almost exclusively on foreign policy. A biography he provided to the 2016 Fiscal Summit at which he was a speaker indicates he is “a federalism scholar” and “an expert on homeland security issues,” with “regional expertise in Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East.” Neither this biography nor any other publicly available biographies list any experience in food safety, agriculture or nutrition.

Whatever. It’s just agriculture. Who cares, right?

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